Cyberlaw, bitcoins, blockchains, cybercrimes & darknet

2 May 2016 11:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

The main takeaway from the workshop was that no international legal framework or treaty exists which addresses cyberlaw issues. Although work is being done by individual countries, there is a need to develop and adopt international best practices.

It was mentioned during the session that cyberlaw is a rapidly evolving area of civil and criminal law, and it is applicable to the use of computers and to activities performed and transactions conducted via Internet and other communication networks. Mr Pavan Duggal (President of Cyberlaws.Net and Chairman of the International Commission on Cyber Security Law) indicated that cyberlaw is not just of relevance to lawyers, but is relevant to all users of the electronic and digital ecosystem.

During the discussions, several areas were highlighted as requiring cyberlaw treatment, and several questions related to the applicability of existing law were raised:

  1. How does a country respond when the network used to commit a crime affecting its citizens is located outside of its jurisdiction?
  2. When it comes to cloud computing and the ownership of data, who owns the data stored in the cloud?
  3. The Darkweb is intended to be used for protecting one’s communication from state actors, but what happens if/when the Darkweb is used to commit crimes?  What are the options available to law enforcement agencies?
  4. Bitcoins, crypto currencies, and blockchain technologies are used for legitimate purposes and have the potential to change online transactions. But they can also be used for illegal activities, similar to other traditional forms of payment. There is on-going research looking into understanding the blockchain technology and how it is/can be used for various purposes.
  5. Internet governance is no longer a single country issue. The presence of global Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), for example, implies policy and regulatory issues on a global scale.
  6. Online liberties and civil rights of users need further protection. How does one strike a balance between protecting national interests while preserving users’ privacy?
  7. There is an on-going need for capacity building; work needs to be done to sensitise developing countries of the need for a common regulatory framework on various digital policy issues.
  8. What are/should be the globally accepted rules relating to ‘digital inheritance’ – inheritance of digital property?
  9. How can cyberlaws be enforced at international level? Do we need an international court?
  10. Do we need an international standard, principle, or norm of behaviour that is based on minimizing harm?
  11. What are the legal implications of wearable technology? Who owns the user’s personal data?

The workshop underlined the fact that cyber activities have real world ramifications, which require a legal framework within which to provide a response to threats and challenges. Various groups are developing industry specific models and best practices. This is being done in parallel silos by specific industry groups; these need to be collated and made available widely so that a global model could be developed.

by Trevor A. Phipps